Patriotism Writ Large in Waterbury

The Third Annual Waterbury Downtown Draw, billed as an opportunity to show off "your best artwork on the sidewalks without getting in trouble!", brought together street art and World War II on Saturday, October 6.

To promote The War, Ken Burns's documentary on the Second World War which featured Waterbury's role in that cataclysm, organizers required schoolkids to draw pictures with a WWII theme.

My daughter designed a picture of her great-great Uncle Laurence Isbell in the Pacific with his submarine, the Herring. Before she drew the plan four our drawing, I showed her another uncle's book Thunder Below! by Gene Fluckey so she could use the cover art as a guide to drawing submarines. This book is a blow-by-blow account of the war in the Pacific theatre. Some day Adella will know the story Fluckey inscribed on the flyleaf 50 years after the Herring sank:

Super person. Super brother. This is dedicated to the memory of Laurence Isbell, SCS, USS Herring, who served the USA above and beyond the call of duty in the famed USS Herring in World War II. Herring was under my wolf pack command and sank a frigate, the Ishigaki, and three other ships May 31 to June 1944. Unfortunately, I believe her demise was caused by a faulty torpedo compensating valve so that the bow brouched on her final firing and two shots from Matasuwa Island shore batteries holed her conning tower, causing Herring to flood and sink in deep water. From the resulting oil slick, she was definitely sunk there. The story is told herein....Immerse yourself and feel our pulse. Good luck. God bless. Gene Fluckey. 14 June 1994.

This inscription reminds me of Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal's letter to my great-grandparents advising them Laurence was dead. In it, he provides graphic detail of the Herring's resume of service. On the one hand these words are cruel and painful, but on the other they fill a gap my Uncle Bud, who bought the book from Fluckey, worked hard to fill. All his life he searched high and low for submariners who could tell him anything at all about his brother. Even stories about what life might have been like for Laurence counted for something with my uncle. Even horror stories were something to hold on to. I think my uncle wanted to know everything about Laurence's combat experience that he might be with him in it. He would go to hell over and over again to be with his brother.

All the kids gathered round the green on Saturday were doing the same thing.


  1. Sandy, I found this very interesting. I hope these people's sacrifices are never forgotten.


  2. Anonymous9:58 PM

    The War was a wonderful presnetation, although it didn't much discuss submariners, come to think of it. The Draw was great, as well!

  3. Anonymous10:02 PM

    I suspect that's all too true - you want the details even though they're often painful.
    Best wishes

  4. Digital Flower Pictures mentions in another comment that the people of Waterbury are very patriotic. I think this is true, even among the folks with the droopy jeans and the sidways hats. They know where they are, and they all want a life. So it was with my uncle.

    I was blessed with a wonderful grandmother who had wonderful siblings. Circumstances deprived me of a great-uncle. Damn it all. I wish I knew this man.


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